I’ve heard from many people in and out of the league asking what Lane Kiffin has ever done to deserve three good jobs. One reader reminded me of the Warren Harding theory in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink.” Gladwell illustrates this theory using the story of former President Warren Harding, whom many historians have claimed rose through the political ranks to assume the office of the president based largely on the power of his classically attractive "tall, dark, and handsome" physical appearance.Kiffin's career is yet another reason why I hate college sports. Kids choose which school to go to based on which coach recruits most effectively and then they cannot transfer easily when that coach defects. Kiffin was at Tennessee for all of one year. The power imbalance in college sports is so much worse than pretty much any other place in sports since the kids are not guaranteed more than one year scholarship at a time.
With no discernable political skills, other than an impressive speaking voice, Harding shrunk from the responsibilities of his office and is now often identified as one of the worst presidents in history. Voters allowed their deep-seated prejudices about the connotations of physical attractiveness to make their decision. Is this what the officials at Oakland, the University of Tennessee and USC have done? Only time will tell if Kiffin is like Harding, but right now all signs point in that direction.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Finally, Applying Politics to Football
Usually, folks take football metaphors (blitz, fourth down, hail mary pass, etc) and apply them to politics. Mike Lombardi, former NFL exec and now superb analyst, reverses the analogy and brings in Gladwell to boot: